Whether you're headed to the city for work or visiting for fun, be sure to pack your running shoes if the nation’s capital is in your future travel plans.
There are miles of opportunities to log some great miles in this city – you just have to know where to go, and get creative with your idea of what constitutes a “trail.” Here are a few of our favorite spots to spend time outdoors in Washington, D.C.
The National Mall
Running on the National Mall is a must-do, especially if it’s your first time in D.C. It’s a favorite place to workout for both tourists and locals because there are so many iconic sights to see. Sunset and sunrise are great times to go because the light on the memorials and monuments can be especially picturesque.
Rock Creek Park
Singletrack in the city? Yep. If it sounds too good to be true, lace up, and head to Rock Creek Park to see for yourself. There are over 32 miles of trails to explore in this outdoor playground. Be sure to bring a map and compass because some of the trails and connectors aren’t well-marked.
If you want to do some speedwork or run long without worrying about vehicles or stoplights then the C&O Canal is your best bet. The towpath is wide, 184.5 miles long and multi-use so you're bound to see lots of other runners as well as hikers, bikers and dogs. Be sure to check the park website before you go to stay up to date with trail closures.
This run is a state of mind more than it is a particular trail, route or destination. It’s perfect for anyone who likes to shut their brain off while running as well as those who dread the out-and-back. To do a Metro Run, start your run near any Metro stop (we chose Dupont Circle) and when you start to get tired (or reach your mileage goals for the day) either pull out your phone to look for the nearest Metro stop or continue to run until you find one.
Pro Tip: Carry your SmarTrip Metro pass in a running vest. Bending them can damage them.
Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to Kingman Island
Just east of downtown, past Capitol Hill, you’ll find the West Bank of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. The trail is a multi-use path that is shared by hikers and bikers. It follows the river and offers some great views as well as some access to dirt trails on Kingman Island. Runners can extend their run even further by crossing the river and running the East Bank of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail as well.
Know Before You Go
Check current conditions of the C&O Canal by visiting the park website. A good bit of the area is closed for construction.
Want to make your runs a little more social? Meet up with the DC Road Runners Club (DCRRC). They have several meet-ups during the week, a few of which are held at night.
Traffic lights, like in a lot of cities, are often green for motorists at the same time that pedestrians are given a “go.” Make eye contact with drivers to make sure they see you and stay alert.
Wear reflective clothing, especially during morning, evening and night runs so that you can be seen.
Carry a map and navigational tools with you, especially if you’re heading into Rock Creek Park. Not all of the trails are well-marked, and it is large enough for you to get lost.
Bring your own water. Though there are public water fountains scattered throughout the city near the National Mall and in the parks, many of them are turned off for the winter.
Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley are based in Asheville, North Carolina, but are currently traveling the country in their van. You can follow along with their adventures at Authentic Asheville.